An Open Letter to the Fitness & Dieting Industry

Dear weight-loss industry,


I say this after WeightWatchers had charged me for the month of May, after I’ve gone to the gym and did better with cardio than I’ve done in five years, and my scale is telling me that I’ve been steadily putting pounds on back to my Very Sick time period, even though my pants, which had fit me pretty tightly for about a year, began to get loose.

I say this to you after I see, with my own eyes, that my figure is leaner than it has been before my thyroid has gone to hell, and somehow the more important thing is my BMI, which will never show me as “healthy”, because I weigh more than what is ascribed at my height, even though if I go below 170 lbs, my ribs will stick out.

I say this after the countless Shop jobs I see in every single smiling gym advert. I’m a graphic designer and photographer; I know a Shop job when I see one, and I don’t buy shop-job ads, but I get to overhear girls ten years younger than me – sometimes fifteen years – in the locker room saying that they want to look just like the girl in the poster for the gym ad, even though they’re slimmer and more fit than I have been since my own teens.

I say this after I killed about six hundred dollars grand total on WeightWatchers telling me to do what I have been doing already anyway, six hundred dollars that could’ve paid off a bill or three, that could’ve gone into my savings, but instead paid for a subscription to a service that basically put me on the diet that I’ve fallen into already when I graduated college and began earning enough to buy real food.

Get. Bent.

Nowadays, I work out more for strength and stress relief than I do for actual weight loss. I’ve long accepted than I will likely never be below a size 12 again, even though I dipped to a size 10 before stress began to eat me alive. I work out for the endorphin and serotonin spikes, because by the time I get off the elliptical, I feel like I’m on top of the world, and the fact that I don’t feel winded sprinting up the subway stairs is a bonus. And of course, the strength training – I love pushing my already pretty formidable strength to the next level.

But I very deeply resent the fact that there’s basically an entire industry geared to telling people, men and women alike, that they’re somehow “not enough” unless they lose weight or look like a poster, when not even the people in the poster look like the poster, honestly. There’s a Walgreen’s across from my gym, and there’s a section of an aisle equal to the cold/flu section devoted to nothing but diet pills, which, let’s face it, do much more harm to a person than their manufacturers would care to admit. The entertainment industry has The Biggest Loser, which is based on people striving towards their best weight, but what the show will never tell you is that these people all gain back the weight they lose, because once they go back to their usual lives, they do not have anywhere near as much time to work out as they did while filming the show. Because that’s just not “glamorous”, amirite?

I was at the doctor’s on Thursday, and this was the first time in years that she didn’t have a word to say about my numbers. My thyroid is kaput, yes, but my glucose levels are perfect, my cholesterol is ideal, no vitamin deficiencies – first time in years. And yet, because my scale quotes a number that’s not someone’s idea of perfect, hello good morning, here come the judgey ads, posters, diet pills, and folks at my gym who, bless ’em, are trying to recruit me to get a personal trainer. Which I’ll do anyway, but not to lose weight – for strength and endurance instead.

I think I’d rather, at this point in time, tell the weight-loss industry to screw off and do my own thing. Work out twice, three times a week and break my records for weights or reps, go on long walks, eat what I please in moderation and when I’m hungry only, and not pay a program to tell me that I’m eating too much in points. Whatever. Screw points. I don’t particularly like sweets, but I shouldn’t be guilted into ignoring them on the occasion I feel like having an apple tart a la mode. I don’t like heavy foods either, but I do like a burger once a month. And if I do lose some weight, then you know what,that’s cool. But if I don’t, then you know what, it’s not like I wasn’t awesome when I was bigger than what I am now. Awesomeness doesn’t depend on pounds or clothing sizes.

And certainly it doesn’t depend on a program telling me something.




7 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Fitness & Dieting Industry

  1. I lost loads of weight previously with Slimming World but found as soon as I began to live a ‘normal’ life the pounds crept back on, then due to pregnancy and spinal problems my weight ballooned, finally I am now starting to lose weight again, not by dieting but simply trying to make better choices (eat breakfast being one) and finding exercise which is easy on the joints and fun so I might do ten mins a day on the cross trainer but I look forward to the hour a week belly dancing, yes I want to lose weight and I will but the main thing for me now is not speed of weight loss but steady loss that can be maintained and getting fit, I have actually set my sights on a charity run for next year to spur me on and have a dress I wish to wear in a few months which is currently a little tight hung up opposite the cross trainer to keep me doing. The reason I am confident I will succeed this time is I am doing it for me :D

    1. That’s exactly the thing: when you go back to a normal lifestyle, the programs cease to be effective – they are designed to be effective if that is all you do. But we, as human beings, have much more varied lives than that.

      When I saw that the scale shows me as having regained all the weight I lost, while my doctor is applauding my numbers and my pants fit a little more loosely in the hip, I just decided that enough is too much. I can’t continue living by the numbers. Yeah, my new jeans fit a little more snugly. That’ll change, and that’ll change because 60min on the elliptical at resistance 8 (of 12) tends to burn off the behind, in addition to the nice serotonin/endorphin rush.

      Keep at it – you are doing great! But don’t look at the numbers. You have the dress, and you know it’ll fit with due time. Keep it up!

  2. True story from when I used to teach aerobics (no, really, I did, stop laughing) . . . One of my friends was a personal trainer, and she had a client who wanted to lose weight, get into better shape, and make it down to a smaller dress size. My friend put her client on a regiment of light weights and cardo, and they kept at it for four months. At the end of that time the client was doing high intensity aerobics three times a week, had reduced her BMI considerably, and had dropped two dress sizes–but she fired my friend as a personal trainer because she’d gained twelve pounds. My friend tried to explain that the weight gain came from an increase in muscle mass, which does show up easily on women, particularly when they’re starting a program, but her client wouldn’t have it because she wanted to loose weight!

    My way of gauging this sort of thing is (a) do I feel good? And (b) do my clothes fit better, or are they getting loose? If “Yes” to both, then you’re on the right track. And those size charts were made like almost one hundred years ago: we used to complain about them all the time in the early 1990’s, and they’re even worse today.

    1. I’m half beginning to wonder if those charts are revised for better weight-shame effects. Not to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but while all the gym ads and supplements have been around forever, it’s only been in the past 7-10 years that the pressure to be thin got really intense.

      My weight situation is more or less hinging on the fact that my thyroid went splat when I was 18 and never quite recovered. It did stabilize, so there’s a good chance to kick things into gear again, but because it doesn’t function, I just plain can’t lose weight. The weight I did lose in the past 5 years was lost with thyroid meds, not so much as diet and exercise. The diet and exercise just got my strength to where I can easily lift my 195-lb drummer friend off his feet (not to bench-press him, though, pity. lol)

      I do high-octane cardio twice a week and mild/moderate weight training. When I go on the elliptical, I crank up the resistance and go for an hour, and already I see myself improve. I can easily see myself getting thinner/more fit/stronger on the cardio alone, but I do it because I like it. I don’t particularly like someone telling me that I have to rely on numbers, or the magic formula. My BMI will always place me in the “obese” category, even though I am nowhere near it, and the WW forums…I didn’t even bother posting in those because the way some of those folks jump down the throats of people who struggle with the program is just plain ridiculous.

      1. Believe it or not, those charts are based, in part, on the same actuary tables that insurance companies STILL use–the ones that say if you’re a 30 year old woman who isn’t 5′ 3″ and 100 pounds, you’re a health risk. There really needs to be a complete reevaluation of what is and isn’t healthy, and create whole new definitions for this subject.

  3. I won’t say I understand where any of you are coming from, at least not on a personal level, but I will say that from watching people in my life break their necks to lose “just this many pounds” to look good in this outfit or at this event or to avoid going around family/friends “too heavy” cause they might judge them, and it is painful. I’ve seen my Mother do it. I’ve seen her avoid going out in public as much as possible and it kills me cause I think she’s beautiful. She doesn’t though and she won’t until she can lose what she desires to, and that makes part of me feel sad for her. . . Doesn’t she deserve to just be happy with herself? To love herself? To not worry about what others think? And the hardest part sometimes I’ve found about these diets and “eating right” according to them is that all the stuff they want you to be able to buy ends up either being a.) incredibly expensive to buy for the amount normal people make and b.) not carried in alot of stores. Mom has this bread she loved eating, and it was part of her diet she was on, and it was expensive to buy though we still put out for it except then the stores around us stopped carrying it. According to them “it wasn’t selling enough” to warrant keeping it on their shelves. That’s just insane. Anyways, yeah that’s my rambling bit. I’ll end it by saying: I love and approve of the message this sends. It says that you are going to do what you want for your own reasons. That you will determine what makes you happy. I think that is the best way to live a life!

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